Amit Mishra's return to Test cricket has been marked by two opposite ends of a third afternoon experience. In Galle, he was part of the dazed Indian bowling unit, that found itself blindsided by Dinesh Chandimal after having the match virtually in their pocket. In Colombo, on a slow pitch after Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Thirimane held off the Indian bowling for an entire session, Mishra finished with figures of 4 for 43 in a 7 for 65 batting collapse in the second session and 50 Test wickets to his name.
The numbers the Indians would be looking for at the end of their second innings are clear to Mishra. "Another 250-300 runs more and 100 overs to bowl at the Sri Lankans." The P Sara surface, Mishra said, had started to spin a bit but "even now, the wicket is good for batting because it is still a bit slow." India's aim will be, "to bat for as long as possible so that on the final day, we can see what happens. No doubt it is helping the spinners a bit but because there is not much pace, it is still decent for batting. It is possible that on the final day, it might be difficult to bat on."
Mishra tossed the ball up today and his four wickets were a beautiful demonstration of conventional legspin bowing, using drift and the breeze to land legbreaks, straighter ones and the occasional googly. A gentle-speaking man, who walked off with his shirt covered in patches of dirt from sliding around while fielding, Mishra said that while he had enjoyed being able to use old fashioned gifts of flight and drift, getting wickets as a result of them gave him most satisfaction. "I always believe my wicket-taking ball is the flighted legspin. Even today, I got two wickets with that."
The dismissal of Jehan Mubarak fell well within the 'ball of the century' category on the basis of the skill it involved, the execution that came with it and the stupefaction of the batsman in watching his stump knocked over.
Mishra had chosen to bowl slow because he hoped to exacter greater turn and grip off the new ball. One of the more under-regarded and undermined Indian spinners, Mishra said he had made sure he kept putting in the hours in domestic cricket while he, "waited for his chance."
"I didn't want a situation where I get the chance and I am not ready." he said. "It's new phase, new boys. Important for all to do well. If we can win, that will be more special - that my wickets helped the team win the match."